Yesterday WeChat, the leading mobile messenger in China, officially announced the launch of paid verified accounts, bolstering the credibility of its fledging e-commerce end.
The verification in this case, however, is less for celebrities and more for businesses hoping to sell products. For a fee of RMB 300 (about $50), companies can apply for and receive verification, which, in addition to including a fancy sticker, comes with a specialized interface designed for managing customer interactions and transactions.
WeChat representatives emphasized that the verification process is conducted by a third party, stating, “in order to guarantee that businesses are legal, we brought on a third party organization to carry out verification. This organization will then go through various commercial bureaus in order to verify the legitimacy of the business and its proprietor.” WeChat then noted that the verification agency charged an annual fee of RMB 300, hence the cost of the application.
The launch comes as part of a greater revamp of WeChat’s public platform, which functions as a social network or blog network that’s complementary to the messaging side and is only accessible in China at the moment.
Introducing paid verified accounts also serves to address emerging accusations that WeChat permits sales of counterfeit goods. Two weeks ago Fan Zhiming of Alibaba’s third-party payment service called WeChat friend circles “a haven for the sale of counterfeit items,” and reports of shady consumer transactions surface in Chinese-language media outlets from time to time. In theory, verification could direct consumers towards WeChat-approved vendors, and the heightened legitimacy could serve to drive more transactions, and subsequently, more money for WeChat.
WeChat is China’s most popular mobile messaging app – the “WhatsApp of China,” if you’re into comparisons. As of August the messenger gained over 236 million monthly active users, and recently reports have surfaced stating that the app has passed the 600 million download benchmark (though Tech in Asia has yet to receive confirmation on this figure).